Yonhap News reports…
“A Seoul appellate court on Thursday reduced the suspended prison term of the founder of one of the world’s largest Christian churches for embezzling church funds, partly overturning a lower court ruling.
In a lower court ruling earlier this year, Rev. Cho Yong-gi, the founder and pastor emeritus of Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, was sentenced to three years in prison with a five-year stay of execution.
In its ruling on Thursday, the Seoul High Court sentenced the pastor to two years and six months behind bars, with a four-year stay of execution, for causing some 13 billion won (US$12 million) worth of losses to the church. Cho had instructed church officials to buy stocks privately owned by his eldest son, Cho Hee-jun, at prices four times higher than market value, in 2002.
The court, however, acquitted the 78-year-old disgraced pastor of charges that he had dodged 3.5 billion won in taxes in the process.
In the same ruling, the court handed down a suspended prison sentence to the junior Cho, the former CEO of the church-affiliated local daily Kookmin Ilbo, for colluding with his father in the embezzlement scheme.
The younger Cho, who had been behind bars since receiving a three-year prison sentence in a lower court ruling, was immediately released.
An investigation into the Cho family was launched last year after a group of members belonging to the church filed a suit for breach of trust and tax evasion.
The church, which claims it has around 800,000 members, has often made headlines in the recent past over a series of internal feuds and various corruption allegations.”